Inspiring tamariki in Whānganui for over 50 years

BEL Centre early learning

Inspiring tamariki in Whānganui for over 50 years

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Inspiring tamariki in Whānganui for over 30 years


As two of Barnardos Early Learning’s first home based educators in Whānganui, Maree and Margaret have nurtured generations of tamariki for a combined total of over 50 years. Today, their passion for early learning continues to build strong foundations for the tamariki in their community.

When it all began

In 1994, stay-at-home mum Margaret was simply enjoying her day looking after her tamariki when she saw an advertisement in the local paper mentioning that Barnardos Early Learning was looking for home based educators in the region.

“I remember that day very well. When I saw the advert in the paper, I remember reading it and thinking: 'Wow, that sounds like something that I can do as well as bringing up my own tamariki!’” says Margaret.

For Maree, the discovery of home based early learning came a few years later, in the early 2000s. Prior to that, she navigated the world of office jobs.

“As I started having my own children, I thought to myself that I just couldn’t go back to an office job. So I decided to join Barnardos Early Learning and work as a home based educator. It also meant that I was able to care for my own children at the same time,” says Maree.

The close-knit bond of being in home based education

Both Maree and Margaret agree that becoming Home Based Educators was an excellent decision. It seamlessly blended with their lifestyles and offered a unique way to contribute.

“Working as a home based educator is really special to me. I find that you become a family unit because you can only take care of four tamariki at a time so you have more time to build close relationships with the tamariki and their whānau,” says Margaret.

Barnardos Early Learning Home Based offers a smaller learning environment for a much more intimate learning experience. Only up to four tamariki under six can be placed in a Barnardos Early Learning Home Based, with a limit of up to two under twos.

People who sign up to become home based educators are guided throughout the process to ensure they become the best educators they can for tamariki. There are qualified visiting teachers who do monthly drop-ins to see how the educators are doing and provide additional support if they need.

"When I first started as an educator, I was excited to discover that play was the best way for tamariki to learn. When the visiting teacher dropped in to see me, we were playing tea parties. She pointed out the learning opportunities of everything tamariki were doing, from learning how to avoid overflowing their cups, using their imaginations to pretend and taking turns. It was a lightbulb moment for me," says Margaret

Home based learning

“No day is the same as a home based educator, which makes things a lot more fun for myself and the tamariki. You get the opportunity to teach them about their community by going out on local adventures regularly, which they love and I love too,” adds Maree.

Barnardos Early Learning Educators actively engage the community, offering tamariki experiences beyond the home. Children's interests take centre stage. A child fascinated by diggers and machinery might lead a neighbourhood walk to observe them in action, even getting the chance to speak with the operators.

“Everything our tamariki are doing is a form of learning. There’s no rush in the way they learn,” explains Maree.

Why stay with Barnardos Early Learning for so long?

“The stability and longevity of knowing that Barnardos Early Learning has been taking care of tamariki for so long reinforced why I have been with the organisation for 22 years. They enforce good practices and standards so well that I couldn’t imagine not being a part of the team,” says Maree.

“I have been with Barnardos Early Learning Home Based since it became a part of early childhood education. I remember being a part of the conversations around the expansion of Barnardos Early Learning Home Based Services across Aotearoa and now here I am still providing education to tamariki and probably will be for the next 20-plus years,” says Margaret.

Want to find out more about becoming a Home Based Educator with Barnardos Early Learning? Take a look here for more information.